In California, fall is the prime time to plant our spectacular California natives.
• Natives soak up our winter rains for several months while getting established.
• Plants can put their energy into root development rather than aboveground growth during shorter fall days. When spring rolls around, they’re bursting with growth.
Besides being drought loving and good looking, native plants provide critically needed habitat and food for birds, butterflies, bees and more. In other words, they’ll attract the pollinators who will turn that squash blossom into a zucchini, that tomato flower into a beefsteak.
And they’re easy to grow. They don't need any special pampering or fertilizing for their survival. They were born here, and they evolved here. They know what to expect from California’s weather and soil, and they can tolerate a busy person’s neglect.
Planting natives is good for your garden, good for the pollinators and good for our planet.
Get started: Suggested Plants
Ask six different gardeners, and you’ll get six different opinions, but here’s a short list of some of our favorites.
• California fuschia (Epilobium canum): Manna to the hummingbirds. They'll practically stand in line to get at the brilliant red flowers. This low-growing plant takes full sun and no water once established.
• Columbine (Aquilegia formosa): Our native columbine sports a very hip, compact red-and-yellow flower that looks like a ’50s-era rocket ship. Likes sun and partial shade.
• Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea): A very fragrant plant; some call it "cowboy cologne.” It’s a favorite of hummingbirds. Bright beet-colored flowers make a great cut flower that lasts quite a while in water. Can tolerate light shade. Once established, needs little summer water.
• Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus): Grows to approximately three feet tall with a mass of beautiful flowers ranging in color from creamy white to deep orange. Needs full sun and little summer water.
• Woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum): This striking plant is a big bee attractor. It has a long flowering season with curling, fuzzy blue flowers—hence the name. Once established, this plant needs little additional watering. Its flowers are used for a stomach-soothing tea. Likes full sun.
• Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Butterflies love this one, and it blooms continuously throughout summer and early fall. It has beautiful feathery leaves and delicate clusters of pink, white, yellow or red flowers. Yarrow likes full sun and very little additional summer water.
Check out this handy guide for everything you need to know to plant and grow natives successfully.
Where to Get Your Natives
Plant sales at your local botanic garden are one of the best places to find natives. Check out their calendars for upcoming sales.